Landline in Seattle?
October 13, 2011 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Do I need a landline? Do they still exist in Seattle?

After years of having just cell phones, I think it's time to go back to having a landline as well. In order of importance, this is why I would need one:

1. For my kids to use

2. In case an earthquake or other disaster knocks out cell service

3. For when I need to actually hear the person on the other end (cell reception is lousy in my house)

4. For my steam-powered Tivo to call the mothership

For all these qualities, especially #2, I think I need an old fashioned telephone. Is this right? If so, does anybody know of a phone company in the Seattle / North King County area that provides real, not VoIP phone service?
posted by The corpse in the library to Technology (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Pretty sure A&T provides land-line telephone service in Washington. Yes, you can still get one.
posted by valkyryn at 9:08 AM on October 13, 2011

Best answer: A quick search could have answered this question.

Either AT&T or Qwest/Centurylink provide landline service.
posted by wongcorgi at 9:10 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is this a serious question?

Call AT&T or Verizon, they still offer landline services. There are also plenty of smaller, more local companies.

Landline service website.
posted by TheBones at 9:11 AM on October 13, 2011

Best answer: Landlines exist everywhere. Legally they still have to. You have Qwest/CenturyLink or AT&T depending on where you are in Seattle.

As for your reasonings:
1. Meh. Lots of kids use cell phones on family plans. This is entirely up to you.
2. If the Cascadia Quake happens, I'd bet against any phones working, land or cell.
3. This is a legitimate reason.
4. I'd call TiVo and see if it really needs to have a landline. Most don't anymore.

If you already pay for broadband internet, the VoIP option really is cheaper and damn near the same quality for about 1/2 the price. And that's before long distance, which you haven't paid for in years. Long distance can really bite you hard if you forget about it. It is really hard to justify old-style landline service for anyone that is in an urban or suburban area.

Credentials: I deal with VoIP and landline phones all day long for a living for a major player in the market.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:20 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: CenturyLink (nee Qwest nee US West nee Pacific Northwest Bell)
posted by milkrate at 9:20 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

For my steam-powered Tivo to call the mothership

My TiVo is 9 years old and it connects to the internet via wifi without issue. Are you sure you can't remove this requirement from your list?
posted by bcwinters at 9:25 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Tivo 1 is not compatible with the USB wifi adapter, IIRC. It isn't listed as supported on tivo's own page.
posted by nomisxid at 10:00 AM on October 13, 2011

Yes, landlines still exist. I think that having one for your kids to use is a pretty good reason if you feel that your kids are too young to have their own cell phones. I plan to get a landline when I have kids for this very reason (or maybe they can just use Skype).

If you don't get good reception in your home then, yes, that is a pretty good reason to get a landline.

You can still get landlines pretty much everywhere, as far as I know, and if you don't bother with call display or voice mail or anything like that, then they tend to be pretty inexpensive.
posted by asnider at 10:10 AM on October 13, 2011

Why is an earthquake more likely to knock out cell service than landline service? Landlines rely on cables that are strung on poles that fall over in an earthquake. Cell phones work as long as some of the towers they can connect to are still standing and powered.

As a survivor of a major earthquake (Loma Prieta) I can tell you that in the immediate aftermath, being able to make quick phone calls would have made *no difference* in the outcome. At the time, in 1989, landlines all got overloaded and you couldn't make calls anyway. After a while things calmed down and you could make and receive calls that were not important at all, like from relatives on the east coast asking if you were OK. It's not like you're going to be able to use the landline to call your kids who are out and about to check on them immediately after a disaster -- they can only answer it if they're in the same room you're calling from. Besides, you can email relatives now as long as some internet somewhere nearby is working.

If you *really* need to use a landline after a major disaster, because cell service is out but landlines are still functioning and you need to call emergency services, then walk to your neighbors house and say "Does your phone still work? Mine is out. Can I borrow yours?"

Seriously, this is not a reason that justifies the cost of phone service.

I would rather give my kids their own cell phones than a landline because I hate listening to phones ring, especially when I know they're not for me.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:13 AM on October 13, 2011

I have a land line. It has worked through all the mini natural disasters around here when my neighbors could not get service because the internet service was interrupted. I have three teenagers. Thought they would use the line like my brothers and I did when we were kids.

I cannot recall one call coming in for my kids in the last 5 years. Literally. The only real reason we needed one was the same as you, service sucks inside here and school events, playdates being set up type things. Moms use the class directory to call and set up play dates.

My kids think the phone is for calling Grandma and Grandpa. Even on their cell plans, they will use 2200 texts in a month and use 12 minutes of calls. I think those minutes are me asking where the fvck they are.

I cannot address the TiVo issue as mine uses wireless (or hard wired), but as for the kids I say don't waste your money.

I would get a mini-tower from your cell provider for inside to improve coverage (Verizon sold me one for $50) and get a Google Voice number just for joint family things like school that links to you and your wife's cell phones. Give that number out to the schools, for forms, etc.

As for the big earthquake, who you going to call if you are the only one with a real POTS landline?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:47 AM on October 13, 2011

Best answer: For all these qualities, especially #2, I think I need an old fashioned telephone. Is this right?

I have a landline, and I'll tell you why:

1) So my son can always call for help without having to figure out how to turn on the phone. (He's 5. This requirement may go away as he gets older, but from ages 2 - 6/7 I feel it's a must have.) (Note: We could actually just have a phone on our wall & not pay for service and he'd still be able to call 911.)

2) So we can have phone service when the power goes out. I don't live in an earthquake area, but I do live in an area with severe winter storms, and multi-day power outages are not completely unheard of (had one for Hurricane Irene, as a matter of fact.)

Quality of cell service inside the house isn't an issue for us, but it might be for some folks (I have friends who have to go into their yard to make calls. Which sucks in February.)

If you'd feel more comfortable having a landline, then get one. Don't let "cool" enter into it. At my house, having a landline means that I feel more comfortable that any member of the family could summon help at any time in an emergency. That's the bottom line for me.
posted by anastasiav at 10:53 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Landlines are cheap. If you want one, get one. I LOVE mine. The reception is amazing and I find an actual telephone way more ergonomic than a cell phone. Plus, if you leave your cell in the car/at someone's house/in a cab/it falls in the toilet, you're not totally SOL.

As far as emergencies go, I really have mine for in case the power goes out for a lengthy period of time. No electricity, no juice to charge your cell. I have a really old phone (that I actually stole from my college dorm inadvertently years ago) that just plugs into the wall. Obviously, if everyone's cells are out, this isn't for chatting to your friends, but for calling 911 if need be, and for being able to communicate with my parents and grandparents, who all have landlines.

I have found that people who don't have landlines are always trying to talk me out of mine, but I actually find mine super convenient, for my own peace of mind, for the reception, and because I actually do find it easier to have one "family" number. Get one if you want it! If you hate it, or don't use it, you can always cancel it.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:59 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You probably do not need to pay for a landline to call 911 in an emergency.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:28 AM on October 13, 2011

Response by poster: > VoIP option really is cheaper and damn near the same quality for about 1/2 the price

When we had VoIP before it went out all the freaking time, and didn't work at all when the power was out. Our power goes out several times a year, for anywhere from ten minutes to three days. Have things changed, or does VoIP still not work when the power's out?
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:24 PM on October 13, 2011

Response by poster: > My TiVo is 9 years old and it connects to the internet via wifi without issue

Mine is older than yours and needs a phone line. (It has a paid-up lifetime subscription, so there's some sense in keeping it.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:25 PM on October 13, 2011

Best answer: When researching 'landline' services the acronym POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) can be useful.
posted by Rash at 2:50 PM on October 13, 2011

Best answer: I have a landline in addition to my cell and here's why...

- horrible reception where I live.
- aesthetics...I just can't cradle a cell phone and talk on it like I can an old school phone. I always wind up hanging up on the person when I use my cell.
- I don't give my cell number to just anyone, I'm old school and prefer to talk on the phone at home and not in the middle of the supermarket, so there are some people that only have my landline number, like businesses and such too.

If you do go landline, don't get cordless, because if the power goes out, THAT won't work either. Make sure you get a corded phone that attaches to the wall for emergencies.

As for the comments about cell service going down, it's not just about service not working, but being overloaded when there is a local emergency or something. We had that earthquake a few months back and everyone panicked and the cell phones didn't work. Never had this problem with a landline and have been able to call parents and check in.
posted by NoraCharles at 3:40 PM on October 13, 2011

Best answer: I have a VOIP landline for the call quality / reception reason and I'm very happy with that decision. POTS (non-VOIP) would work just as well for me, I'm not too concerned about power outages. In my case VOIP was basically free with my TV/Internet bundle (U-Verse from AT&T).

does VoIP still not work when the power's out?

VOIP will never work when the power is out (well, maybe if the power outage is localized and you have a UPS on the modem).
posted by wildcrdj at 5:15 PM on October 13, 2011

Response by poster: For anyone else who runs into this (although it seems I am alone in not keeping up with telephone knowledge): CenturyLink serves North King County. The phrase I needed was "dial tone service," which means an analog, POTS line that will work when the power is out.

posted by The corpse in the library at 5:27 PM on October 13, 2011

After an earthquake, phone lines are generally overwhelmed and you can't call anyone anyways. At least, that was true after the Nisqually quake in 2001. I think it took a good 8 or 12 hours to get a dial tone once. (And then, better to call someone far away, where the phone lines aren't overwhelmed, and have them concentrate on calling people who need to be called.) It's still a great idea for power outages (though in Seattle, it's never going to be out for the days it would take a cell phone to die) and call clarity.
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:20 PM on October 13, 2011

For the bad reception, you can generally get some sort of micro-cell from your cell provider. It acts like a small cell tower in your home that uses your internet connection. Sometimes you can even get one for free by talking to customer service.
posted by jefftang at 7:09 AM on October 19, 2011

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